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[Page 281]

The Doctor of the Poor

by Itche Blatman, Paris

I remember many dear and nice Jews in Kozienice, but I will only mention two.

He was called only Moishe–Leib, and that was enough. Small children and the elderly knew who Moishe–Leib was: A Gerer hasid, a great scholar, an official of the Khevra–Kaddisha, a Jew who was always looking to do good deeds.

He was not wealthy, but he made a living. He, Moishe–Leib the expert, was the doctor of the poor.

Poor people rarely called a doctor or a barber–surgeon because it cost money. Moishe–Leib was indeed busy with sick poor people day and night. They would awaken him in the middle of the night; he would get dressed quickly and run to the patient.

I remember once I was at his place on business. Suddenly, a very mournful woman came in. Moishe–Leib recognized at once why she had come, and, leaving me there to wait, went off with the woman to a patient. Often, he would also leave a couple of groschen to buy a prescription.

His wife was a dear woman, modest, saintly. If someone came in to call her husband and he was not at home, she would give them a place to sit and wait for him – he was with a patient. Meanwhile, she comforted them – God would help. Moishe–Leib came home, she sent him to the sick man right away. In this way she helped him with his holy work.

This is the sort of dear people they were, Moishe–Leib and his wife.


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Kozienice the Exalted

by Rabbi Yitzchok Freilakh

During the generations, giants of Torah imparted their glory to the cities in which they chose to live. Such towns as Vilna, Volozhin, Mir, Slabodka, in the world of yeshivas; Medzibozh, Mezritch, Berditchev, Lublin, in the hasidic world, did not become famous because of their material wealth, but thanks 'instead' to the giants of Torah and saintly persons who pitched their tents there.

The town of Kozienice merited the designation “city and mother in Israel” because one of the lights of hasidism lived and worked there in his time – the tzaddik Reb Yisroel, famous the world over as the holy Maggid of Kozienice. This saintly figure left several generations of famous tzaddikim behind him. They enlightened all Israel with their teachings and righteousness until the enemy came and put out the ember which had warmed thousands of the leaders of Israel.

 

The Maggid's House

In the heart of the city was a street which served as a stronghold for thousands and tens of thousands of Jews from every corner of Poland. The street was called Magitowa, after the Maggid. Among the low houses on this street fluttered a tiny, two–room house in which the Maggid housed his name, in his day and for generations thereafter. In the first room, which appears to have served as an anteroom, there were two armchairs and other expensive furniture. In the door at the entrance to the Maggid's chamber there was a peephole through which, according to hasidic legend, Rebbe Levi–Yitzkhok of Berdichev looked into the Maggid's dwelling and saw the house filled with light.

In the second room stood the Maggid's bed and chair, the amud of his grandson, Reb Elezar, and the armchair of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele Hopstein, the offspring of a dynasty of jewels, the fifth generation in uninterrupted succession from the Maggid.

In the last years before the murderous war, the chair of Rebbe Asher–Elimelekh, a son and the heir to the throne of Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele, was also moved into the room.

On shabbes and yontef, the rebbi'im went there immediately after davening to bless a good shabbes. At the end of shabbes they returned accompanied by their hasidim in order to play Eliyahu Ha–Navi on the fiddle to the Maggid's tune, known as Per Heiliger Niggun.

The Maggid's chamber also served as a sukka for him and his descendants.

Behind the house, a twisting path led to a low mountain on the way to the town mikve called Starszik's barg, after the goy who lived nearby. Elderly hasidim said that Rebbe Levi–Yitckhok of Berdichev rolled down this mountain on his way to the mikve.

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The Rebbe's House

Across from the Maggid's house stood a splendid stone house which served as the court of the palace of the Kozienicer rebbi'im in Poland, a brilliant and many–hued personality. In addition to his duties as rebbe, he also served as head of the Kozienice rabbinical court and as preacher in Rika, a village near Kozienice. Thousands of hasidim from every corner of Poland flocked to him.

For several years the rebbetzin Brokhele lived there, and from time to time, heirs to the throne served there. Rebbe Aharon–Yekhiel Hopstein, among the most famous rebbi of his generation, who was endowed with his father's chair. Over the course of years he pitched his tent in Otwock.

His brother, Reb Asher–Elimelekh, also among the great rabbis, lived in Lublin for several years, and returned to his father's house in the last years before the war. He served there permanently. His sanctity shone out to thousands of hasidim from there.

The society Avodat Yisrael was also founded in the rebbe's house by his third son, socio rum junior, Yisroel–Elazar, now living in Brooklyn. During the twenties, the young rav influenced several Kozienicer hasidim to liquidate their residence in the diaspora and join him in going to Israel to show pity to the land and build their future in the land of the patriarchs.

The president from the house of Kozienice went up at the head of several families, set his tent–pegs in land of the Keren Kayemet, and built Kfar Hasidim. His sister, the rebbe tzin and authoress, Malka, the wife of the Admor Elimelekh of Grodzisk, the Rebbetzin Khanele, may the Lord avenge her blood, and the Rebbetzin Khavtche, the wife of Rabbi Shalomke Shapiro, went up together with their great brother and opened a new page in emigration of hasidim to the holy land.

In this house – remember it? – the tables were arranged from year to year by the Admor Kalonymos Kalmish Shapiro of Piaseczna – son–in–law of the Kozienicer Rebbe, and the late–born son of Rebbe Elimelekh of Grodzisk – who went to prostrate himself on the grave of his ancestor, Rebbe Moishe–Elyakim Beriah, the Maggid's only son, and the grave of his father–in–law, Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele, on the thirteenth of Elul.

 

The Bes–Medresh and the Shul

Across from the rebbe's house stood two splendid and up–to–date buildings, the bes–medresh and the shul. The Jews of the town flowed into the bes–medresh day and night in order to pour out their prayers to their creator.

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I spent many days and years in this bes–medresh. I was among the scholars who sat around the table or stood by the platform and learned gemore, poyskim, and toysfos regularly. There I merited to pour water on the hands of several of the town's scholars. I learned together with young men who excelled in Torah and superior moral qualities. I took part in the work of repairing books, at the head of which stood the most distinguished of the fellowship, Reb Avi Ezra Zelig Eliezer, the only son of the rabbinical judge, Rabbi Yoysef Shapiro, of a dynasty of jewels, a diligent Torah scholar. When he married the daughter of his uncle, Rebbe Elimelekh of Garvolin–Warsaw, he assumed the post of rabbi in one of the Polish towns.

His position as head of the book–repair committee was filled by Moishe Borenstein, the son of Reb Eliezer, known as Elazar FoygeL He was likewise among the prize students, urged on the repair of the Porisower shtibl, and stood at the head of the Reb Meir Ba'al Ha–Nais society.

His elder brother, Alter, was chairman of the Revisionist organization. At this time I was learning together with my cousin, also among the better scholars, the learned and sharp Yerakhmiel–Moishe Freilakh. He influenced my father to send me to learn – together with him – at the yeshiva Da'as Moishe, founded and supervised by the Piaseczner Rebbe.

The shul was open only on shabbes and yontef. From time to time, public meetings, at which civic or community leaders addressed issues of the day, were held there.

 

Shtibelekh

The majority of the adult congregation were hasidim. There were practically no misnagdim of the Lithuanian type, which is not to say that the 3ews of Kozienice did not oppose hasidism. Absolutely not!

As good Jews, they well knew the “law of opposition”; they were not opposed to Ba'al Shemian hasidism, but to anyone else's rebbe: the Gerer hasidim opposed the Porisower and vice versa, while the Kozienicer hasidim opposed them both.

In addition to the rebbe's, where the Kozienicer hasidim prayed, there was also a Piaseczner shtibl not far from the Maggid's, a Gerer shtibl, and a Porisower shtibl, both on Lubelska Street. There were also isolated hasidim of the rebbi'im of Radzin, Kolubiel, Garvolin, Lublin, etc. In the neighbourhood of the bes–medresh, Reb Yakele Shapiro, heir to Reb Zelig–Eliezer and a descendant of the Maggid, also served as rebbe. Several tens of his followers prayed in his bes–medresh.

The Zionist organization also had a regular m in van on shabbes and yontef. The Zionists, their sympathizers, and some of the Zionist youth prayed there. Their shtibl was in Beit Ha–Tarbut on Radom Street.

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My Grandfather

While speaking of holy places and synagogues, I will recall the house of my grandfather, Reb Elimelekh–Eliezer Freilakh. He was a lion in the hasidic world; his name spread far beyond this city and his residence in the palaces of the greatest rebbi'im was firm.

When I parted with him for the last time – during the days of wrath, in fact – he was broken and crushed from the blows of time. The enemy ruled in the fullness of his cruelty, but my grandfather did not despair. On the contrary, their torments increased his faith that the Lord would not abandon his people.

I recall the last time I saw him. 1 went to him in the early hours of the evening in order to bid him farewell before leaving my birthplace and my father's house. He lay in bed already, his lips murmuring his credo. Every Friday night before the kiddush, he was accustomed to repeat the credo he had composed, which encompassed far more than the thirteen principles of Maimonides. With tears dripping onto his long beard, he began: “I believe with a perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be his name, is the creator and leader of all creation,” continuing until he had completed the thirteen principle points, and thence with his own composition.

“I believe with perfect faith that our father Abraham was true, I believe that our father Isaac was true,” continuing and including all the choice of the patriarchs, the twelve tribes, Moses, Aaron and his children, Joshua and all who came after him, David, Solomon, the Tanniam, the Amoroim, the rabbis who compiled the Babylonian Talmud, the geonim, the Baal Shem Tov and his descendants, and the greatest of the admoyrim up until his last rebbe, Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele Hopstein.

On the evening when I went to him for his blessing, my father's sister, Khayele, said to me, “Go to father's bed and listen closely to what he is muttering.”

I approached to where he lay in the dark room, muttering to himself “I believe that the holy Rabbi Akiva was true. I believe that the holy Rabbi Khanina ben Teradion was true,” and so on. I stood at his bedside for an hour listening to the speech from his lips and burst into tears. I left the room. Next morning, I took my leave of him, and he blessed me with, “Let him appoint his angels to guard you in all your ways.”

I saw him no more, for he went up on the pyre during the storm.

He was very old at this time, but he was still awake and alert to all that took place in his town and the world. He took an interest in all the events of that terrible epoch, and tried with all his might to justify the law and “tell that the Lord is upright”.

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It was said that he was born to greatness. He was gifted with the power of understanding and a wonderful intelligence and also with excellent abilities. From the dawn of his youth, he learned in the house of his father, Reb Pinkhas Freilakh, the town rabbi, until in the course of time he was proficient in the Talmud and poyskim, and dove into the sea of the Talmud like one of the giants. Here he also acquired his self–sacrificing devotion to everything sanctified, to the needs of the congregation, and especially to being bound with bonds of love and fear together to his rebbi'im, the enlighteners of the eyes of Israel in his and the coming generations.

In his youth, my grandfather went to Rebbe Elimelekh of Grodzisk. Despite his tender years, he bound himself to the rebbe until he became one of his favourites. At the rebbe's he was called by his second name, Eliezer, out of respect for the rebbe.

After the Grodzisker's passing and Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele Hopstein's coronation with the rebbi'ish crown, my grandfather clung to the latter with all the threads of his soul. He never referred to him but as “mayn heliger rebbe”, and to his children, two of whom became distinguished rabbis in their own right, as “mayn heligen rebbi's kinder”.

My grandfather was his father' s eldest son. His brothers were Reb Avrum–Khaim; Reb Pinkhas; Reb Shmuel, who became Pinkhas' son–in–law by marrying his daughter, Yutele; and Reb Ben–Tzion, who inherited the rabbinical chair from his father. They were all sharp–witted scholars whose fear of heaven preceded their wisdom.

His sisters were Sorele and Rivkele who, with the passage of time, became famous figures of charity. In their father's house, they learned how to answer many questions concerning what is forbidden and what permitted.

Reb Elimelekh's wife, my grandmother Khanele, was the daughter of the generous hasid Reb Yitzkhok Schwarzbard, one of the leading Vorker hasidim. Like her husband, she was graced with superior moral qualities and became a genuine woman of valour. All her life, her husband was her only happiness, she was a help mate to him and a merciful mother to all the needy.

My grandfather preferred business to the rabbinate. Therefore, while he was still with his father–in–law, he rented a mill in the village of Koszlek near Kozienice, and, when it succeeded, he added others, closer to town. With the passage of time – and with financial help from my father who was very wealthy in those days – he built a mill in the town itself. He supported himself from it, as well as others, and became known as one of the wealthy men of the town.

My grandfather merited to see an upright generation. His sons, his daughters, and their children were all scholars, well–educated in secular matters, too, faithful and devoted to their people and to Zion. My grandfather had four sons: Reb Shmuel–Elya, the eldest; my father and teacher, Reb Avrum–Ya'akov; Reb Pinkhas, and Reb Aharon who died during his father's lifetime.

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After his marriage, Reb Shmuel–Elye settled in Kaluszin, where he became president of the congregation and director of the local bank.

My father and teacher, Reb Avrum–Ya'akov, married the most beautiful of women, Roizel–Dvoire, daughter of the generous hasid Reb Naphtali–Tzvi Boorstein, one of the leading Vorker hasidim in Radom. His first steps in business were crowned with success. This was at the time of the First World War. He became very rich and was liberal in his donations to charity, for he was in the habit of enriching those who enriched him. In order to remove any shadow of doubts to whether he was giving the poor a fifth or a tenth (the rule of liberality specifies not to give more than a fifth), he used to thrust his hand into his wallet, and the sum that he came up with was what he distributed to the poor and to charity. When his fortunes declined during World War II, he was especially sorry that he could not afford to support the poor, as he had done before. Both my parents were the best of the best with respect to their charitable qualities.

At the outbreak of the murderous war, Reb Pinkhas was head of the congregation, president of the Zionist organization, and a member of the Kozienice town council.

His daughter, Yutele, married her uncle, Reb Shmuel, a great scholar and great in fear of heaven. His second daughter, Khane–Pearl, married Yitzkhok–Meir Madanes, likewise a scholar, a hasid who lived in the fear of heaven. At the outbreak of the war, his third daughter, Khayele, married a distinguished young man of great piety who was plucked up in his prime.

My grandfather attained the splendour of paterfamilias of a well–known and many–branched family. He delighted to amuse himself in discussing Torah and secular matters with his sons, daughters, sons–in–law, and grandchildren. They all treated him with great respect, and he loved them with a great paternal love.

My grandfather's family was many branched, bearing sweet fruit nourished by the great tree, that same man great in piety and excellence, Reb Elimelekh–Eliezer Freilakh. When the enemy led him out to ascend the pyre for the Sanctification of the Blessed Name, he was accompanied by his sons and daughters, his brothers and sisters and their spouses, and their children: Pinkhas and Yerakhmiel–Moishe, Altele, her husband, and children; the sons and daughters of Yutele; my sister, Tzippoire–Gittel and her husband Elye–Pinkhas; their children, Shulamis–Ruth, and a girl baby of a year; my brother Yishaye–Yekhezkel; my younger brother Naphtali–Tzvi; Bezalel Madanes, his wife and children; Ya'akov and Khanyele, the children of Yitzkhok–Meir and Sarah–Pearl Madanes; Pinkhas Warezki, Sara–Pearl's son by her first husband, and his children.

The rest of my grandfather's family was taken in captivity, and the Lord, father of mercies, had mercy on some of them and left them as a remnant.

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The City–Fathers, the Rabbis

Today, when one writes of the city–fathers, the reference is to the mayor and his advisors. In the days before the terrible Holocaust, the city fathers were the rabbi and his court. The spiritual leader was the central personality; individuals and groups turned to him in all their dealings and all their needs. The rav was like a father and protector to his congregation; he rejoiced with them in their happiness and was pained when they were sad.

Before the Holocaust, there were three such “fathers” in Kozienice all called either local judges or authorized teachers. As mentioned above, the rebbe also served as head of the rabbinical court. As a sign of love and esteem for their venerable rebbe, the Jews of Kozienice signed a document making him chief rabbi and gave it to him, knowing in advance that he would have not time to devote to the day–to–day needs of the congregation, for all his time was dedicated to the service of the Lord. Thus the yoke of the congregation was placed, for all practical purposes upon the shoulders of the dayanim (judges).

There were three of these to mediate disputes in my time in Kozienice. My uncle, Rabbi Ben–Tzion Freilakh, inherited the chain of the rabbinate from his father, who had it from his father, Rabbi Aharon, who had it from his father, Rabbi Yitzkhok, a student of the Maggid, lovingly called Reb Itchele by the Jews of Kozienice.

Ben Tzion received his post at the age of sixteen when his father passed away. At the same time, he was ordained to the rabbinate by the genius and famous tzaddik Rav Meir–Yekhiel Halevi of Ostrowca.

Over the years he gained renown as one of the greatest rabbis in Poland.

His fellows in this exalted service were Rabbi Yoysef Shapiro, one of the four sons of the admor Zelig–Eliezer, a descendant of the Maggid, and Rabbi Yoysef Mintzberg, who served in the town of Czepelow before coming to Kozienice, and was deferentially called the Czepelower Rav by the Jews of Kozienice.

These rabbis sometimes worked together as one group in the supervision of shekhita and butcher–shops, of the mikve and eruv, and the like.

There was an old established custom in Kozienice for the rav or dayan of the town to be present at the slaughterhouse during the slaughtering of cattle and fowl, in order to provide khalakhic instruction for any question which might arise. Therefore, the rabbis set up a roster, each one of them being in the slaughterhouse once or twice a week.

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There were also several fields in which each one worked by himself. For example, Pinehas Freilakh preached in the great bes–medresh on two shabbosim a year (the shabbes before Pesakh and the one between Rosh Ha–Shana and Yom Kippur). He was also the chief speaker on national holidays, prayed regularly in the bes–medresh, where he sat to the right of the ark and was the regular Torah reader, and was given the sixth aliya every shabbes. He also inherited his father*s right to daven musaf on the Days of Awe. In the bes–medresh, his brother Avrum–Khaim davened shakhris, and in the shul, where the rebbi'im prayed on the Days of Awe, the right to musaf was my grandfather's.

Rabbi Yoysef–Yehuda Mintzberg prayed shabbes and yontef, except for the Days of Awe, in the shul. He heard the reading of the Torah and then went home to daven musaf in the company of several of his adherents who prayed at his house. He also appeared occasionally on national holidays; he was learned, an excellent speaker, and a commanding personality.

Rabbi Shapiro prayed shabbes and yontef in the bes–medresh of his elder brother, the admor Reb Yakele, and in the bes–medresh during the week.

These three rabbis instructed on questions of permission and prohibition and ruled at din–toyres between two opposing parties.

As is the Jewish custom, there were also groups in Kozienice who supported and preferred their own rabbi to the exclusion of any others, but in general all three rabbis were accepted by the community, which drank of their waters and accepted and fulfilled their instruction.

During the time between World War I and the beginning of the nine teen–thirties, there was also – in addition to the rabbis just mentioned – an “appointed rabbi” who bore the title with respect to the civil authorities. He registered the congregation's marriages and births. The office was held honourably by Reb Moishe Weinberg, a refined man, pleasant in his bearing and accepted by the congregation. His children were active Zionists. One of his daughters, Dvoire, went to Israel and settled in Tel–Aviv with her family. After Rabbi Weinberg's death, the registration of births passed to Rabbi Freilakh, and the congregation had to hold elections for city rabbi.

In the meantime, Rabbi Freilakh was chosen head of the rabbinical court in Worka, and Rabbi Mintzberg passed away. A young rabbi was chosen, the son–in–law and heir to the throne of Rebbe Asher–Elimelekh Hopstein, the son of the admor of Stolin, Rabbi Nakhum–Shloime Perlov.

Rabbi Perlov was an outstanding scholar, a man of parts and superior qualities. He returned the position of the rebbe's house to its earlier glory. The house of the admor was once again a stronghold, and everyone predicted a glorious future for him, until the brutal German soldiers came in their S.S. uniforms and destroyed, and performed abominations, and trampled everything holy under the foot of pride.

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Rabbi Perlov and his wife together with his mother–in–law and his young brother–in–law Moishe were forced to leave the town in disappointment. When they departed “its glory departed, its brightness departed, its splendour departed,” until the entire congregation was destroyed.

 

The Congregation and its Leaders

As in all the cities of Europe, “The Jewish Community of Kozienice” (the kehilla) was the chief institution of the town's Jews. All the Jews living in the city and its environs belonged to it– There was a president at its head, and an administration chosen once every few years in democratic elections.

I recall two community leaders from the last years before the war.

Moishe Wasserman, a sensitive man, a tailor, was elected to office by the anti–Zionists on the administration. He represented the Folkists. My uncle, Pinkhas Freilakh, represented the Zionist movement in all its branches. He was a refined man, active, a well–to–do merchant by the standards of the town, and a fervent Zionist who also served on the town council.

The secretary of the kehilla was Reb Moishe Goldzweig, a pious Jew with a long beard, dressed in a long elegant coat without stains. On shabbes and yontef he wore a shtreimel and silk clothes. Although he had never studied in a Polish school, he knew Polish perfectly and used it freely in speech and writing. He was also a member of the city council and was respected by the Christians.

The heads of the kehilla changed, one going and one coming, but Moishe Goldzweig was attached to his office.

I knew the Jewish youth of Kozienice in the years before the war. Most of them were precious pearls, always ready to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the land of Israel and for the sake of their people.

I well remember the youth in the Betar uniforms, the members of He–khalutz and Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair, the youth who took part in the Betar training in Kozienice, the Zionists, the Revisionists, Brit Ha–Khayil in their uniforms, Ha–Shakhar and Maccabee, Tze'irei Mizrahi, the religious Shomer organization, Tze'irei Agudat Yisroel They all studied and knew Hebrew; several of them were extremely cultured, and the characteristic common to them all was that they thirsted to learn and to know.

 

The Freilakh Family

(Note: Except for the following list of names, everything in this section has already been mentioned earlier in this article).

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In order to set up a monument to the pure and holy members of the Freilakh family, along with their children, I will record their names in the register of the martyrs of Kozienice insofar as I can recall them today, twenty–two years after the Holocaust.

Reb Elimelekh–Elazar ben ha–Rav Pinkhas Freilakh
Reb Shmuel–Elye ben Reb Elimelekh–Elazar Reb Avrum
Ya'akov ben Reb Elimelekh–Elazar
His wife, Roizele bas Reb Naphtali–Tzvi Burstin
Their daughter, Tzippoire–Gittel
Their son, Naphtali–Tzvi
Reb Pinkhas ben Reb Elimelekh–Elazar Freilakh, and his wife, Frieda
Yutele bas Reb Elimelekh–Elazar Freilakh
Her daughter, Alte bas Reb Shmuel Freilakh
His son, Pinkhas ben Reb Shmuel Freilakh
His son, Yerakhmiel ben Reb Shmuel Freilakh
Sarah–Pearl bas Reb Elimelekh–Elazar Freilakh
Her husband, Reb Yitzkhok–Meir Madanes
Their son, Bezalel ben Reb Yitzkhok–Meir Madanes
Their son, Ya'akov ben Reb Yitzkhok–Meir Madanes
Khayele bas Reb Elimelekh–Elazar Freilakh
Reb Avrum–Khayim ben ha–Rav Pinkhas Freilakh
Ha–Rav Ben Tzion ben ha–Rav Pinkhas Freilakh
Sorele bas ha–Rav Pinkhas Freilakh
Rivkele bas ha–Rav Pinkhas Freilakh


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The Household of R'elimelech Freilich

by Zvi Madanes, Tel–Aviv

Rav Elimelech Freilich, the first born of R' Pinchas, was known in our town as a sharp, intelligent scholar. In his youth it was foreseen that he would become the Rabbi of our town. But he did not get that position since his younger brother was cantor and judge. He understood the soul of every human being, saw to the awakening of all aspects of life in the city, and knew how to treat his fellow man. Thanks to this, he won for himself the respect of the Jewish community of Kozienice.

After morning prayers, he learned a few pages of Gemarah, his daily chapter of Kabbalah and his daily amount of Zohar. He would then take the newspaper “Hyant”, which was considered to be Zionist and read it through, without skipping a single line. He wanted to know about his fellow Jews in the rest of the world, but the more pious Jews in the community criticized him for reading such an “unkosher” newspaper. Grandfather never used to pay attention to this criticism because he always looked for, and found, some good in every Jew.

I will never forget grandfather's singing “next year in Jerusalem” at the Seder table, to the tune of the Rebbe of Kozienice. All of us grandchildren would sing for an hour in voices that pierced the heavens: Next year in Jerusalem! And each one of us felt in our hearts that next year we would really be in Jerusalem.

Welcoming the Sabbath by grandfather was also something special. On Friday, even before candle lighting, you could feel the Sabbath approaching. On the table was spread a white tablecloth. The two challahs were covered, and beside them lay a special knife with the words “Holy Sabbath” engraved on it. The stoves in the kitchen were closed, and the pleasing odor of the Sabbath fish filled the whole house. Grandfather arrived from dipping in the ritual bath, and put on his special Sabbath clothes: A white shirt, a long robe made of black silk, a silk belt and a fur trimmed round hat.

My grandmother, Hannah, of blessed memory, inserted a few coins into the blue box of the Jewish National Fund, and went to light the Sabbath candles. The house was filled with light and calm.

Grandfather combs his beard with his hand and goes off to the house of the Rebbe for the prayers welcoming the Sabbath. It is filled with worshippers and when they see R'Elimelech they begin. At the end of the service they greet each other with Gut Shabbes and head for home. Grandfather walks out slowly because going to synagogue one must hurry, but coming from synagogue you walk slowly, especially on Friday night, when every Jew is accompanied by two angels. As he walks home he hums a Sabbath tune.

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From windows and doorways of houses, the glow of the Sabbath candles shine like the stars in the sky. Grandfather approaches and enters, saying Gut Shabbes. As he goes to the head of the table he recites prayer sections from the Zohar dealing with the holiness of the Sabbath. Tears flow from his eyes and the light of the candles accompanies the path of his tears. In his prayers he never forgets his relatives and friends. He also mentioned a certain Mr. X, and for the merit of the Sabbath candles, he prays that the light of Israel not be extinguished, God forbid. When he finished his prayers, he said the blessing over the wind. Each word was uttered with intent and in complete holiness.

Neighbors, who had already finished their meals and said the grace, came over to grandfather's house. He had a musical talent. Every year he would compose new tunes for the additional service of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We, the grandchildren, could recognize by his facial expressions and the humming, that we were supposed to catch the new tune. He would open his eyes under his bushy eyebrows, and turn to my brother, of blessed memory, who was the head composer in the synagogue, and say: “Nu Betzalel, will you be able to repeat the new tune for the prayer ” “Remember Us For Life?” “Yes grandfather,” my brother would answer. Then all the people at the table would start singing the new tune for that prayer.

This would happen on every Sabbath. We sat together as one big family, children and grandchildren, and sang together the songs of the Sabbath.

 

Before the Kol Nidre Prayer

The sun is setting. Mother is lighting the candles as well as the Memorial candles. Each one of us goes to mother and father and wishes them a Happy New Year. Mother, trying to hold back her tears, blesses us and cries over us.

The whole town is on its way to the synagogue. In the synagogue, Jews are already standing wrapped in their prayer shawls ready for the prayer before Kol Nidre. On each side of the Holy Ark memorial candles are burning; big candles made of wax, whose light blends in with the light from the hanging chandeliers. The quiet spreads. Only from the women's section, the sound of wailing can be heard. Mothers are sobbing for the well–being of their offspring and households. A knock on the table signals the opening of the Ark as we say: “Open the gates of Heaven to our prayers”.

Rabbi Elimelech, in his white robe and white socks, circles the platform and repeats the verse: “light shines for the righteous and joy for the upright.” The crowd repeats this after him, and from the women's section a heart rending sigh is sounded. The scroll of law is returned to the Holy Ark, and R'Elimelech begins the Kol Nidre. The entire congregation hums the melody softly with intensity and awe.

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That synagogue was ruined. The Holy Scrolls were burned and the entire congregation was led to their deaths. O' Congregation of Kozienice, you are holy to us, and your last groans we hear to this day. Together with you we turn to God and pray to him to pour out his anger on the murderers for their destruction of the House of dacob.


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Pinchas Freilich, May the Lord Avenge His Blood

by Yaakov Leib Eisemman–Bogata

Our first meeting was accidental, during a visit which I made to one of my family who married a Kozienicer young man. I think he was also from the Freilich family. Over a glass of tea, my relative introduced me to a blond young man who had come into the house. He was a lovable youth with a sympathetic smile, which added a special charm to his appealing demeanor. We discussed the problems of our times, and discovered that we both belonged to the Zionist Org., which bound our acquaintance even more.

My new friend, Pinchas Freilich was the son of the worthy and well–known Chasidic patriarch, R' Elimelech Freilich, the first adviser of the Maggid's dynasty, a Jew of stature, with a clever head. R' Elimelech was the most important member of the Freilich clan, the outstanding family in Kozienice, or as they joked, “The Czarist family”. We can say that half of the town were members of the family, among whom were counted the Rabbi's family. It is understandable that they controlled the religious and communal life of the town.

But, at a time, when all family members dressed in traditional Jewish garb on the Sabbath – long coats and round fur hats; one broke away. This was my friend and comrade, Pinchas. He appeared on the streets in European garb and a felt hat. He also conducted his family life in a more modern fashion. In this he was helped by his wife, who came from a modern Jewish home in Galicia. His free time was dedicated to his lifetime ideal – Zionism. He threw himself into the work of creating a Zionist Org. on a large scale. He constantly came to me with plans on how to draw the youth into the movement. We worked together to establish a Yiddish and Hebrew library. He engaged in this work even though his family considered him a transgressor and free–thinker, who was leading astray the upright Chasidic sons and daughters. He often neglected his business for the sake of the movement. Disputes arose between him and his father, but he ignored them and continued his path. When it was time for elections to the Polish Senate the Zionist Land–Organization shook the world. They sent out circulars and propaganda materials, as well as speakers in order to elect more deputies from the Zionist Party. We were drawn into party squabbles, especially my friend Pinchas, of blessed memory. He didn't rest, but used his influence among the Jewish populace, that they vote for the Zionist list. With the help of the well organized youth we were victorious. In 1931 I left Poland forever. For a while we corresponded, but for various reasons we stopped. He is fresh in my memory to this day. May his memory be blessed!


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My Father Pinchas Freilich

by Cesia Freilich–Luxemburg, Stockholm

My father was born in Kozienice in 1898. He was descended from a strict religious family. In his twenties, he came up with the idea to organize a branch of the Zionist Org., which would struggle for a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisroel, which was then under British mandate. At the time, my father married my mother, Frieda, of the Kirschenbaum family, which had come to Kozienice in 1918. My mother was born in Novi–borek, near Tarnow. After the wedding both my parents were active in Zionist institutions. My mother was especially active in WITZO. She collected money and thereby saw to it that our home was open to friends.

For a long time my father was active in community affairs. He was chosen chairman of the Zionist Org. and held the position until 1939. In about 1933 father founded the Tarbut School and a kindergarten. I remember that one of the teachers in the school was Zvi Semiatizky, who now lives in Israel.

My friend, Sarah Rothman–Mandel, who lives in Israel, and who had studied Hebrew with Zvi Semiatizky, writes that her daughter now has the same teacher. Such coincidences occur in life – that a mother and daughter have the same Hebrew teacher many years apart.

My father was also Chairman of the Jewish National Fund and one of the co–founders of Hechalutz. He often traveled to Warsaw for conferences and saw to it that our town was visited by leaders of the Zionist Org. My father was also chosen as a board member of the Jewish Community Council.

 

After the Outbreak of War

September 1, 1939 was the start of World War II. On September 8, our town was occupied by the Germans. The difficult days began for us. I was witness to the murderers cutting off the beard of my grandfather, Elimelech Freilich. The Nazis waited for his outcry, but not a sound came from his lips. He stood quietly as if nothing were happening. They used large shears to cut off half his beard and only then did they leave him alone.

My father was especially hunted by the Nazis because of his position in the Zionist Org. and the Jewish Community Council. Several days after the occupation, the S.S. came to my father's mill and demanded payments. With difficulty the sum was accumulated since we were a poor town. My father understood what was in store for the Jews and did not want the leadership role. He suffered a great deal and grew old and gray so quickly that he couldn't be recognized. Afterwards the Germans liquidated our mill, and my father and his brother went to do forest work.

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The bread cards which each Jew received were insufficient and so hunger became a regular guest in our house. When the Jewish Militia was organized, good friends suggested that my brother should join, and in that way alleviate our need. My father rejected the suggestion because he didn't want our family to serve the interests of the Hitlerite murderers. Better to suffer hunger, with a clear conscience, than to help the Nazis.

 

After the Destruction

After the Ghetto was destroyed, my father and mother went to work in the Kozienice area. My brother worked in Pionki. There he became ill with inflamed lungs. In November 194–2, the Gestapo came from Radom and took away 17 young men from the hospital. Among them were some 14– year olds, my 17 year old brother, Marcel and his friend Genzel. In the same month all Jewish work places in Kozienice were liquidated. Some of the people were sent to Treblinka and the others to other concentration camps. My father was sent to Volanov, where he suffered physically and morally. From there he was sent to Blizshin and then to Auschwitz.

My mother worked as an Aryan in the munitions factory in Pionki. She was a brave woman. She used to bring food to Volanov and Skarshisko and saved some Jews from camps by bringing them by train, at night, to Pionki. This was heroic because she risked her life to save others. Once, on the way to work, she was betrayed by a Christian named Tomashevski. This was at the close of 194–3. She denied the charge, saved herself, she was interned in Krushetz, from where in July, 1944, she was sent to Auschwitz.

 

In Auschwitz

In Auschwitz my mother met my father. Through the electrified fence they carried on a conversation. My mother didn't survive. She broke down both physically and mentally, and passed away at the beginning of 1945 at age 47. My father was sent to Mathausen in Austria, where he broke down. Two days before the liberation, at age 47, he died of hunger and illness.

I write of their tragic fate, and want their suffering memorialized in The Book of Kozienice. I hope that future generations will read this and not have to ever suffer such indignities. I also wish to memorialize the Genzel family, none of whom survived. Adele and Eva were shot in Kozienice; Rozalia and Yuzek died in Bialostok. Mauritzy Genzel, our religious teacher, died of hunger even before the transportation of the Ghetto Jews.


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Images From the Depths of Forgetfulness

by Malka Shapiro, Jerusalem

An old–time Hasid was R' Melech, the son of R' Pinchas. He was both a sharp scholar and merciful father to his children. What can a Jew do, who is engaged in many business ventures, and even after buying the flour mill in the town of Kotzlik, cannot make a living. His worries about running the mill came up in his prayers when he poured out all of his sorrows before the almighty. Since he is the cantor quite often in the synagogue of the Maggid the holy preacher from Kozienice. Beside him stands the righteous R'Yerachmiel Moshe, of blessed memory, the heir to the seat of his grandfather, the holy preacher. The cantor's prayer, which comes from his entire body bursts forth from his heart and enters the hearts of all the congregation. They pour all of their sorrows before the almighty with the words “from our distress we call upon you.” Who could forget such a prayer? Who can forget R' Melech, the cantor of the beautiful voice and troubled heart who beseeches God to grant the Children of Israel a good and happy year. There were times when R' Melech forgot his troubles during prayer and danced like a schoolboy before holier prayers to a march tune, which the holy Maggid of Kozienice had heard from the Angels of God. At that time the Maggid led the Jew, Shmuel Zbitkover to the Garden of Eden. And by what merit did this simple, assimilated Jew, the husband of the righteous Tamril did he reach the exalted state of admittance into the Garden of Eden? When the Cossaks attacked the Jews in the city of Praga on the banks of the Vistula River which cuts through the capital, Warsaw. At the height of the pogrom, when the Cossaks were looting and slaughtering, Shmuel Zbitkover stood with a barrel full of gold coins in the square and announced: “He who brings a live Jew will receive two gold coins, and he who brings a dead Jew will receive one gold coin.” The pogrom ended, and the martyrs were buried. The living were saved from the murderous Cossaks. It was after this event that the melody of the march was revealed to grandfather, the holy preacher. I remember well, the dancing of the cantor during his prayers, to the tune of this march.

 

The Small House of Study

Not only on the High Holy Days but also on Friday night in the small, ancient study house, R'Melech sang with feeling the tune to: “Come let us go forth to welcome the bride, the Sabbath queen.” He was accompanied loudly by all.

The congregation was composed of Jews from all walks of life. All were Hasidim, dressed in long coats, good and upright Jews. Simple folk, like Shlomo Berl's, who served the scholars who sat and learned in the house of study, and Eliezer Itche, of blessed memory who ran his small store, together with his wife, honestly so that even non–Jews came and knew that they would not be cheated.

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R'Zundel, the miller, with his bass voice, would provide the flour from which the Shmurah Matzah was baked on the eve of the Passover. Many others were also present. On the Sabbath eves, the faces of the Jews of the city, which were troubled all week, took on a look of Sabbath joy. The Sabbath melodies of my family, of blessed memory, entered the soul, as my younger brothers, may their memories be blessed, sang them. R* Arele and R' Asher Elimelech, together with their families were slaughtered for their Jewish martyrdom in the Nazi Holocaust.

The crowded space of the ancient study house would seem to spread and enlarge on those Sabbath eves, when the candles sparkled in the silver candelabra, and in all the surrounding homes. This was after the great fire which had damaged many homes and the study house. All was rebuilt.

At times, on Sabbath eves, I feel as if I'm still in the company of the wife of the Maggid, of blessed memory in the women's section, which was the connecting room between the study house and the Maggid's quarters. It seems that I am also with my sister, Chana Goldele, may God avenge her blood, who came on Aliya to the valley of Zevulun in 1924. Today it is known as Kfar Hasidim. When she came on a visit to Poland in 1939, the war broke out. She was shot by a German after she had brought my wounded nephew to a hospital. And I also feel the presence of my sister, the righteous Rachel Chaya Miriam, of blessed memory, the wife of the Rebbe of Piasetshna who together with their children perished in the Holocaust.

I also find myself standing besides grandmother, Sarah Dvorale, of blessed memory who sighed as she prayed and my righteous mother, Brachale, may her memory be a blessing. All of the women I remember; the wife and daughters of R'Melech, the cantor; his sisters, Rivkele, Sarale and Gruna and their mother Ruchama, all of them tall, who seemed to me like the daughters of Tselafchod in the desert, in the time of Moses.

Also at the conclusion of the Sabbath R'Melech would sing at the final feast for bidding the Sabbath farewell. Those melodies could be heard until the wee hours of the morning. The melodies from the house of the preacher were so beautiful that they would even influence the non–Jews to act more friendly to Jews.

With the beginning of the work week, R'Melech would return to his flour mill in Kotzlik. Besides the obligation to support his family, because he had to worry about each and every one of his sons and daughters, each with his or her individual needs, he not only worked hard at the mill, but found time for study, especially on long winter nights, after the Rebbe had distributed volumes of the Talmud to each of his Hasidim. Full days of learning took place on the 18th and 19th of Kislev, the “Yahrzeits” of Rebbe Baruch'l and the Great Maggid, R' Dov of Mezritch. In spite of his preoccupation R' Melech always smiled. A heartfelt smile appeared on his broad–bearded face even after he would get angry at someone. Non–Jews were friendly with him and his workers knew that they must treat his horses who pulled his wagons, kindly.

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Once when bandits fell upon one of his wagons and the wagoneer tried to save the horses, he was shot in the head. The non–Jewish farmers then started to protect the wagons, even in the winter when travel on the roads was most difficult. Survivors of the town of Shivia tell, with feeling, of an incident at the end of winter when the horses could barely pull the wagon because of the icy conditions. At that moment a non–Jewish farmer rushed out of his house near Kotzlik, with his accordion and began to play. The playing of the music calmed the horses and they continued on their way.

A special fondness was displayed towards R'Melech also by the Austrians in World War I, after they had conquered Kozienice and its nearby fortress. The military governor called him the wise Melech, and enjoyed his intelligent conversations. By the way, not a single Jew was either killed or wounded during the bombardment of the city by heavy cannons. We were witness to a miracle thanks to the merit of the Maggid of Kozienice. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the Holocaust, but our martyrs, may God avenge their blood, live on in our hearts. But R'Melech stands before our eyes, as if he were alive, to this day. We see him walking to the study house to pray, to the stores with the flour he brought from his mill and to his home on the street that bordered the home of the Maggid. His merciful way with his children had a soothing influence on all.

Even after the great fire, when the Maggid was accompanied to his temporary home by his Hasidim, and among them R'Melech, we felt safe and secure. In kindness I remember how soothingly he spoke to members of the family of Rebbe Elimelech of Grodzysk when, shortly after the Rebbe had passed away, his daughter–in–law gave birth to a girl and not to a boy as they had all expected. He influenced others to say that there was nothing to be upset about, and as she grew older, he would often go to see the child as she grew.

And now, after the Holocaust that the Nazis brought upon us, his image appears before my eyes among all of the martyrs, may their memory be blessed, those who were beloved and pleasant in their lifetimes, and in their deaths were not parted. That R'Melech, just like in his lifetime he was filled with feelings for others and faith, so also, on this last day as survivors tell it, he was taken by the Nazis on his last journey, holding his grandson to his chest. This was the son of his daughter who had been born to him when he was well along in years. Speaking words of comfort to the child, the Nazis killed both of them. Only our Father in Heaven can avenge this innocent blood, and he is faithful to the remnant of Israel, and will reward us with a complete redemption, materially and spiritually, speedily in our own days.


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Jews Who Built Kozienice

by Isaachar Lederman, Rio de Janeiro

As I've already indicated, right before the outbreak of World War II, about 5,000 Jews lived in Kozienice, who were engaged mainly in making canvas and leather shoes of all kinds, which were sold in the east and Galicia. Small merchants and businessmen were but a small percentage of the Jewish population, and their activities were also tied to the shoe industry. Even Rabbis and religious judges were involved in it

Besides these, there was in the city a brewery, two flour mills and 2 sawmills which belonged to Jews. One of these was Israel Honigshtok, a school chum of mine. He and his children were killed by the Hitler murderers. His wife, Hese, came to Brazil after the war, and died here five years ago.

Before WWI, there was also in town a large factory “Hammer”, which produced copper sheets. The owners were Gerer Hasidim, scholars, who carried on a rich, observant Jewish life and participated in all facets of Jewish life. The factory was destroyed by the Russians and the owners went to Warsaw and never returned. The Poles confiscated the factory property, because it had been Russian, but it was never rebuilt.

 

The Larski Courtyard

A large palace was called the Larski Courtyard. It covered a very large area, surrounded by tall buildings and walls. In the center stood a beautiful palace with orchards, field, water and woods. There were also walking paths for young couples and sport areas. In the courtyard lived hundreds of workers, laborers, and shepherds with their families, who were engaged in various occupations. Jews had regular access to the courtyard. They provided everything for the inhabitants. Jews bought the grain, the fish from the ponds and the milk from the cows.

The milk and cheese industry was in the hands of a Jew named Moshe Getzels. The whole thing was run by a Russian with the help of Jews and Poles. The owners of the courtyard had palaces in Warsaw, Petersburg and Moscow. Once a year they came with their entire staff to do the accounts for the entire year. After WWI, the courtyard was confiscated by the Polish government. A Polish nobleman and his officials settled there and became the owners. Understandably, access to Jews became almost forbidden. All was taken over by Poles, even the milk and cheese industry. The orchards were no longer leased to Jews. A Pole, who invested nothing, always had to be a partner.


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Kozienice Was Nicely Built

There were nice markets, woods, gardens, entertainment centers and places for swimming and bathing. In the summer they came from Warsaw and Radom. The streets were broad and mostly paved. Many streets, such as Lubliner, Warshaver, Bzhuska, Radomer, Kostchelna and Magitova were inhabited by Jews. Poles lived all around the city. Only on Warshaver Street were there Christian establishments.

 

The Mintzberg Family

There were a number of high–rise houses, of which, almost all belonged to Jews. The nicest houses, which covered a large area, with many rooms and salons, belonged to the notable and wealthy Mintzberg and Weinberg families from before WWI. The Mintzberg's were the MRothchildsH of the town, and well known throughout Poland. They were lumber merchants. Yerachmiel Mintzberg was a scholar with a beautiful long white beard. In his old age, he sat and learned day and night. He had a large beautiful library with both religious and secular books. He read the Hebrew periodicals “Hatzfirah” and “Hazman”, and conducted himself in an upright and honest manner. He did not chase honors. On the Sabbath he prayed in the House of Study. He raised his children to be religious and worldly. He had good teachers for them – learned Jewish soldiers who served in the area.

The great writer, Pinya Katz, was also one of their teachers. Grandchildren studied in Warsaw, Radom and Keltz, and some even studied in foreign countries. During WWI, when all Jews were driven out of Kozienice, the Mintzberg family went to Radom. The old man died there and the family didn't return. They rented their houses and even sold some of them to other Jews and Christians.

Only one son–in–law, Yona Tzemach, and a grandchild, a son of Shlomo Mintzberg, remained. The former had a beer brewery and the latter a bank. They provided credit to merchants and landworkers until WWII. The family perished in the Holocaust in Warsaw, Radom and Kozienice. Only a daughter of Yona Tzemach survived and is now in Israel.

It is important to mention how the Mintzberg's acquired their great fortune. It had once belonged to a Russian general who was stationed in Kozienice. He had no family. Yerachmiel Mintzberg was well acquainted with the general. He would lend him money and advise him. When the general fell ill in his old age, Yerachmiel and his wife did not leave his bedside and served him faithfully till the final moment of his life. Before he passed away, he gave Yerachmiel a signed paper indicating that his entire fortune, houses, gardens and forest were willed to Yerachmiel and his descendants forever. Old people told this story which they remembered. It was obviously a true story since the family never denied it.

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Rabbi Yosef–Yehuda Mintzberg

Before WWI our town appointed him as Rabbi in place of R'Rechthand, who had passed on. He was a big scholar of the same Mintzberg family – the Ostrovzer Mintzbergs, who were also very wealthy and the largest iron–mongers in the city. When WWI broke out, the Russians took the Rabbi hostage. He was in Russia till the October Revolution. When he came back from Russia there was joy and happiness in the city. He died in Warsaw in 1929 of a serious illness.

 

The Weinberg Family

The second family, Weinberg, as I mentioned above, was descended from R' Lipa Yona, a vigorous follower of the Kozienice Maggid. He was a prominent wine merchant, who traveled occasionally to Leipzig and Danzig, and was connected with nobles and foreign merchants. He was the wealthiest Jew in the Radomer area and a great philanthropist. After his death, his son, R'Gedalia, followed in his father's footsteps. He raised his children to be religious and worldly. Some were learned, and in town were called wild non–believers. The oldest son, Heshel, who came from Warsaw, founded a Yiddish school (in which I was a student) and secretly the “Bund” Org. of Workers. In 1905, he organized a large meeting in the House of Study, with the participation of delegates from Radom. That same night he had to flee the city, because of informers, and his end was: Siberia.

Another member of the family, who lived in Warsaw, (I don't remember his name) was among the few scholars who participated in the revolutionary movement. He was also sent to Siberia. When he was later freed by the October Revolution, he became the director of the large National Library in Moscow. One of the family members was director of a Polish school.

Yona, the son of Yitzhak Weinberg, who came after WWI from Radom, took over the inheritance of his grandfather and was very active in the community. He founded the Bund and the Youth Bund, a sports organization, and a Jewish school for poor children. His wife, Rachel, and 2 children, survived the Holocaust and came to Brazil, where she had 3 brothers–in–law. Two years ago she died here.

This is the family tree of the two wealthy families, about whom you can say that Torah and Wisdom went hand–in–hand. They built and perpetuated Jewish life in Kozienice. I also consider it my obligation not to minimize, God forbid, the entire Jewish community – rich and poor, merchants, small storekeepers, handworkers, workers, butchers, delivery men, wagon–drivers, porters, fishermen and market–place hawkers – all of those beautiful Jews, together with their wives and children, the people of Kozienice, who were cruelly murdered by the Hitler murderers – may their names be forever blotted out.


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By The River

by Chaim Dimant, Paris

I stand at the river and remind myself of my childhood years
All have passed, but everything lives in memory.
The sun sends her warm rays,
Almost all the walls of the houses were white.

I couldn't control myself and ran to the river.
I looked and saw how the sun sparkled like diamonds.
The beauty and warmth I greeted with a smile.

It was hot.
Under a tree I waited for a breeze.
The leaves murmured. The grass bent
Back and forth as you rock a child.

I fell asleep because of tiredness and heat.
A sweet dream greeted me on a hill,
Until I climbed to its summit.
I saw my river, and I became overjoyed.
We engaged in conversation.

The water shimmered with a smile.
It cannot speak otherwise, because it is, alas, a river.
But we understand one another.
Because we were often together.
I ran there quickly,
As soon as I could free myself from my mother.

My mother sang, the children under her wings.
I imagined that she rocked me in a cradle.
The sun went down, and night fell.
I arose, tired. I was faint.


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A Memorial to My Many – Branched Family

by Elimelech Feigenboim, Ramat Gan

I am fulfilling by this a holy obligation to establish a memorial to my large family. My late father, Yitzhak David Feigenboim, was called in our city, R' Itshe Notis, the Ritual Slaughterer. He devoted all of his life to the household of the Rebbe, R'Yerachmiel Moshe, of blessed memory, and after he passed away, his son to the Rebbe R' Arele, of blessed memory. My father would neglect his own affairs and his family in caring for the Rebbes' households. After the death of Rebbe R' Yerachmiel Moshe his three single daughters and two sons were orphaned. Before each and everyone of their weddings, father would travel to all of the towns in Poland to collect money from Kozienicer Hasidim.

My late mother was short and thin, with a prayerbook always in her hand. The yoke of making a living fell upon her, since father spent his time in the Rebbe's household. In spite of the worries of a livelihood, she always found time for communal activities. My mother and our neighbor, Shaindel Dina, collected money for the sick and for poor brides. The material world did not interest her at all. One needs to care only about the world–to–come. Every Monday and Thursday she fasted. The Ninth day of Ab (Tisha B'Av) was a day of mourning in the full sense of the word in our town. The townsfolk sat in darkness and waited for a miracle, that the Messiah should come and redeem Israel from its bitter exile. This was the only hope for these pious Jews.

There were seven children in our family, five sons and two daughters. We received a traditional education. The girls did not learn in a school. My oldest brother, Aaron Berish, had a candy and cookie factory. He would send his products to the surrounding towns. He had a beautiful house on Lubelska Street. He was a well respected Hasid, who would lead the services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He was pleasant to all, helpful and a pillar of the community. His son and three daughters, all married, perished in the Holocaust. My second brother, Moshe Hirsh, an enlightened man, fought together with other young men, such as Avraham Freilich, Shmuel Karpman, Pinchas Freilich and Isaachar Lederman, to change the way of life in Kozienice. Before WWI, Moshe went to live in Warsaw. My sister, Nehama Leah, lived in a town near Kozienice. She was married to Moshe Chmilnitzki and they had a number of sons and daughters all of who perished in the Holocaust, except for a son and daughter who now live in Israel. My second sister, Raisel, who was married to Avraham Zucker, lived in Kozienice, had four children and they all perished. My late mother Tzivia Esther of the Rozen family, was the daughter of Yaakov Rozen. He was a respected cloth merchant from Radomska Street. His wife Rivke was called Grandma Rivkele, because they had many grandchildren and great–grandchildren.

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My grandfather had six sons and two daughters as follows: R' Shimon Rozen, an observant, respected and important cloth merchant. At dawn he would rush to the synagogue for the first minyan, summer and winter. His large family included sons and daughters, grandchildren and great–grandchildren, all of whom perished, except for two grand–daughters, who live in the United States.

R'Moti Rozen, an observant, modest cloth merchant, whose very large family perished, except for two daughters and a grandson. R' Ezra Rozen, a clever, observant Jew, father and grandfather of many. His final years he lived in Lodz. All of his family perished. R' Moshe Rozen was the youngest in the family. His wife, Feige, was the daughter of Uncle Shimon. He was called Moshe di Bobes, because there was another Moshe in the family. He was a cloth merchant on Radomska Street, and observant. His four children perished. Aunt Chaya Leahtses, whose husband died in his youth, remained a widow with five children, three daughters and two sons. One son was called crippled Berish, because at age three he contracted Polio, and could only crawl on his backside with the aid of his hands. She, my aunt, had one of the largest cloth stores in the city and was clever and respected. All of her children married well. Of the whole family only five grandchildren remained alive; two in Israel and three in Canada.

R' Fishel Rozen, an observant wool merchant, and his wife Pesia, lived in Radom. They had two daughters, Chanele and Tzivia, who perished. Eliezer Rozen and his wife, Leah, lived in Kazimiez. They had three sons. One, Shlomo, was an observant rich fur merchant who went to Israel before WWII and died there. My grandfather, R' Chaim Yaakov Rozen, a cloth merchant and father of the large Rozen clan was a tall Jew with a white beard, who smoked a pipe and was respected by both Jews and gentiles. My grandmother was short. She had fifteen children, eight of whom remained alive. Understandably, my grandfather was observant, but did not incline towards Hasidism. Both reached a ripe old age. Grandpa died in 1916 and Grandma in 1917. They established a large family that was called the Rozen Clan. My parents had a cloth store on Rodomska Street. We were never rich, but we never lacked food or clothing. We were considered middle–class, even though life was not easy.

 

My Teachers in Kozienice

I and my brother Fishel were the youngest. We received a “modern” education. From age 3 to 6 the Melamed, R' Yisroel Mendele taught us. My deceased mother used to tell us that he was called to come to our house, where he was paid the sum of 50 ruble for a period of three years, on condition that he take the boys in the morning and return with them in the evening. There were –0 children who learned in his Heder. It consisted of the teacher's family room and kitchen. Understandably, we knew everything that went on in his family. In the 3 years we began to learn aleph–beis (alphabet), the prayers and Chumash.

[Page 308]

We played more than we learned. He had an assistant, who helped with the discipline. We had no games, so we played outside in the sand or with stones. He had a whip which he used when necessary, but only on the poor children. For the recital of the “Sh'ma” prayer in the home of a woman who had given birth to a boy, we received bags of candy for the seven day period until the circumcision. We would also help the teacher's wife and take care of his children. After him, we had Rebbe Moishe Tuter. Here we learned Torah with Rashi's commentary. At age 9 we went to the yellow Moti, who had a red beard. Only 12 students learned Talmud with the commentaries. In the summer we learned from morning till evening, and in the winter until 9:00 p.m. At night we returned home carrying a paper lantern with a lighted candle in it. This Rebbe raised geese, and his wife sold them in the marketplace. We learned all the details of the business, and he was more concerned with it than he was with our learning. On sabbaths in the winter we would come to learn, and in the summer we would learn Ethics of the Fathers. On sabbaths the Rebbe would visit at the homes of his students to test them. Woe to the Rebbe if the student did not pass the test. At age 13 there weren't any teachers for us, so we went to Shedlitzer Yeshiva. Every day we ate somewhere else on Sabbath by relatives. With the outbreak of WWI the Yeshiva closed and we returned home.


[Page 309]

Chaim Berman, The Community Leader

by Issachar Lederman, Rio de Janeiro

I thought that Zelick Berman, who lives in Israel, would write about his brother, Chaim, and eternalize his memory, as he well deserved. I was sure that he would tell what happened to Chaim at the time of the destruction of the Kozienice ghetto, how he perished as a martyr in a Pole's cellar, where he had been hidden; and how, after the liberation the survivors of Kozienice together with Zelick took his remains from the cellar and gave him a Jewish burial.

Unfortunately, Zelick did not do it. Instead he wrote to his brother–in–law, Berish Shabason and asked that I write about Chaim. I firmly believe in the rule that “in a place where there is no other …” it is my duty to write about a chaver, who earned the eternalization of his memory in our Yizkor Book.

Chaim Berman was a very intelligent person, and perhaps the only one in our shtetl who combined To rah learning, wisdom and labor. He stemmed from simple parents (his father was a photographer) but they knew very well how to raise children.

We learned together under the tutelage of the best teachers (melamdim). From age 12 to 15, we were taught by the great scholar, Lozer Karpman, who was Mendl Alter's only son, a Lubliner Hasid. Chaim's parents sent him to good Polish teachers at the time he was learning in Bais Medrash. My parents couldn't afford this luxury for me.

At age 15 we both left for the Makover Yeshiva. We studied there for 2 years. When we left Kozienice we had been strictly religious, but upon our return from the Yeshiva we were both free–thinkers. We were already well acquainted with both Hebrew and Yiddish secular literature and viewed life from a different perspective. Kozienice Hasidism and the Bais Medrash.

Chaim learned his father's trade and later went to an uncle in Lodz, where he worked and came home only for the holidays. I, on the other hand, stayed on in the four walls of the Bais Medrash.

During Choi Hamoed the Passover of 1907 we, together with a group of Bais Medrash students; Shmuel Karpman, the White Lozer, Avraham–Yekl Freilich, Yisroel Honigshtok, Moshke Tepper, Hillel Luxemburg and a few more students, together with a few elderly Maskilim and the Kozienice Rabbi's daughter, founded the first Jewish library in town in Yitzhok Krishpel's chamber, under the eyes of the Rebbe and his disciples.

In–between we married – and fortunately, we, excluding the White Lozer, remained in town. Then the first World War broke out and the old Hasidic life in “shtetl” disappeared. In 1918, we openly, and not in a closed chamber, founded the first Jewish folks–club in town. Chaim became chairman and I, vice–chairman.

[Page 310]

It was time for the elections to the town council and we joined the Jewish Folk–Party, and brought into town Noah Prilutsky, Latsky–Bertoldi, Leo Finklestein, S. Stupnitsky, Lazar Kahan, H.D. Nomberg, S. Beeber and others. We also organized the Jewish handworkers. Chaim was a good leader, speaker and organizer who was perfectly fluent in Polish. Other parties respected him and paid attention to what he said. He was elected with a large majority to the town council and his list pulled in two other councilmen; Zygmunt Halputer and Yitzhok–Ely Korman. Chaim was also chosen as Alderman by the Magistrate.

Communal elections are held. Chaim Berman and his group of folklorists and handworkers: Issachar Lederman, Moshe Vasserman, Leyzer–Itche Zilberberg, and Yitzhok–Ely Korman were elected.

When the Folks–Club founded the first drama circle in town, Chaim Berman became the actual leader of the circle. The “Children of Berman” as they were called in town; Chaim, Shimon, Tobe and Zelick always had hits. Even Hasidic Jews went to see their performance of The Dybbuk. They even came from the surrounding small towns to see The Dybbuk.

Briefly then, from “Heder” and until I left Poland in 1928, Chaim Berman and I were true Chaverim, who together had built up the Yiddish culture of our town.

May my words serve as a fitting memorial for my chaver, Chaim Berman, of blessed memory, who died a martyr and did not stain his good name with any deed or act which could have been of any help to our murderers.

 

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